Comm102 – Notes 6 – 2.6.14
Social Cognitive Theory
(Trying to explain why people act the way they do)
o Social (observational) learning theory
o Social cognitive theory
o Cognitive traits
o Four component processes
o Disinhibitory devices: Forms of selfexoneration
• Social (Observational) Learning Theory
o Learning a new behavior involves observing and imitating that
behavior being performed by another person.
o The model could be a real person (e.g., family member, peer), a
filmed person, or even a fictitious character (e.g Barney).
o Individuals are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if:
the model is similar to the observer.
the model has admired status.
the model is rewarded.
the behavior has functional value.
o Children see children do
• Social Cognitive Theory
o In 1986, Bandura published Social Foundations of Thought and
Action: A Social Cognitive Theory.
He assigned cognition a central role in human behavior.
o People are:
not just reactive organisms shaped and shepherded by
environmental events or inner forces,
but, selforganizing, proactive, selfreflecting, and self
• Distinct Cognitive Traits
o Symbolizing capacity
o Selfreflective capacity
o Selfregulatory capacity
o Vicarious capacity
• Symbolizing Capacity o Symbols, such as words and letters, are utilized to represent
specific objects, thoughts, or ideas.
Symbols are the vehicle of thought.
o Allows people to store, process, and transform experiences for
o We can’t directly connect with one another so we use symbols
to represent thoughts/emotions
• SelfReflective Capacity
o The process of thought verification.
People perform a selfcheck to make sure his or her
thinking is correct.
o Through selfreflection, people make sense of their experiences,
explore own cognitions and selfbeliefs, and alter their thinking
• SelfRegulatory Capacity
o Adopted standard and perceived performance
People evaluate their own behavior and respond
The capacity provides the potential to selfdirected
changes in behavior.
o A dual control process
Ex. Friends smoke and they look like they’re enjoying
smoking – so you start to smoke. Or opposite, they
smoke and it looks gross so you don’t smoke.
• Vicarious Capacity
o People learn by observing the behavior of others
without directly experiencing it.
o This vicarious learning explains how people learn a novel
behavior without undergoing the trial and error process of
o à Observational learning or Modeling
o Ability to learn without direct experience
Emphasizes potential contributions of mass media
Positive – learn beneficial things
Negative – learn antisocial behaviors
• Observational Learning / Modeling / Social Learning o Observational learning does not merely refer to a shortterm
process based on a simple observation and imitation.
It concerns longterm effects.
o Most commonly invoked theory to explain television’s effects
on learning behaviors
o Ex. Television viewing – hours a day with tv. Repeated viewing
to make money
• Bandura’s Bobo Doll Study
o Took kids and showed images of people playing with bobo
dolls. The kids reacted to the bobo dolls differently. The people
who watched the adults play with bobo dolls violently, the kids
were violent to bobo.
• Observational Learning / Modeling / Social Learning
o A cognitive approach that emphasizes the importance of mental
activity as a precursor to action.
o Four component processes
o Individuals cannot learn much by observation unless they
perceive and attend to the significant features of the modeled
o Ex. Watching tv but just in the background, maybe less likely to
remember things from the tv and won’t get the effects
o Attention depends on
• Salience (personal relevance) and attractiveness
Perceived functional value of the action
Ex. Have a headache so you pay more attention to Head
One’s goals and interests
One’s cognitive skills
o Modeled behavior must be remembered or retained in order to
be used again. o Retention involves
• Comparing the action to already existing thoughts
relevant to the action
Filing the behavior into longterm memory
• Motor Reproduction (Production)
o Learning a behavior does not lead automatically to replicating
o Individuals must have physical abilities and skills to replicate
Belief that one can enact the be